KU hoping donations stay on track

LAWRENCE — University of Kansas officials hope big donors will continue to give large sums and honor their pledges to the university, although many have lost significant money in the economic downturn.

Dana Anderson, a university graduate and financial supporter, saw his net worth decline during the recession. Anderson is vice chairman for the Macerich Co., which owns 72 malls in 23 states. He has watched his stock holdings drop from more than $100 a share to less than $6 a share.

"These are certainly challenging times," Anderson said. "I made pledges toward athletics and the marching band and the libraries when my net worth was significantly different. And my income was significantly different. I think, hopefully, we will come back. Hopefully. These are tough times right now."

Anderson's donations paid for a large chunk of the construction of new facilities at Kansas. He pledged $12 million toward construction of the $33 million football complex next to Memorial Stadium, which includes practice fields, offices and a training center.

Jim Marchiony, an associate athletics director, declined to reveal the status of particular pledges but said financial support remained commendable.

"We have a very, very, very good rate," he said. "Fortunately, our donors, alums and supporters are very good about fulfilling their pledges. Our people have been terrific."

The family of Tom Kivisto pledged $10 million to the football complex. However, Kivisto, a former Kansas basketball player, was fired from his position with an energy trading company after the loss of $2.4 billion on transactions involving oil futures sent the company into bankruptcy. Kivisto's family wouldn't comment on where the pledge stood.

Kansas has started another major fund drive to expand its football facilities.

The athletic department is seeking $34 million in donations to build a Gridiron Club on Memorial Stadium's east side. It will hold 3,000 additional seats. Income from those ticket sales will help fulfill the athletic department's pledge to give $40 million to university academics.

Marchiony said he's confident Kansas will obtain the money it needs to build the Gridiron Club, which will also help finance construction of a $25 million complex for track, soccer and other minor sports. The Gridiron Club is scheduled to open for the 2010 football season.

Officials with the Williams Educational Fund are working to attract donors willing to contribute $25,000 per seat for a five-year membership or up to $105,000 per seat for a 30-year membership.